Returning with a second album just eight short months after your first typically means one of two things. Either the songs just keep coming – notebooks jammed with lyrics, songs flowing out of you at every rehearsal like a jammed tap, or you’re so sick of the songs on your first album you can’t wait to write them out of existence. With Los Campesinos!, you suspect both are true. Cooked up in a session originally meant to spawn a batch of B-sides, ‘We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’ instead debuts 10 songs that outstrip LC!’s debut album at every turn. No more songs about you and me dancing, or sipping cherryade and parties. No, these songs place Gareth Campesinos! right at their chaotic centre, as they are tales of collapsing relationships, bitterness and jealousy, and breathless, self-lacerating rants that splurge out dirty truths as if choked by their tightened neck-scarf.
The opening ‘Ways To Make It Through The Wall’, then, commences with Gareth announcing, “I think it’s fair to say that I chose hopelessness/And inflicted it on the rest of us” with a curdled mix of obnoxiousness and righteousness. That’s as cheerful as he gets all album; as it happens, a nastier, crankier Los Campesinos! actually turns out to be quite a lot of fun. Come the third song, the title track, he’s already vomited in a Mexican restaurant, vomited by a football pitch, promised to break someone’s teeth, wished to die by heart attack and collapsed in tears into an ex-girlfriend’s naked breasts. With it, too, the music has hardened. Guitars, violin and glockenspiel are strummed, sawed and struck with such energy and vitality they sound like weapons. Anthems are built out of anger, spiked with sharpened crescendos. But every time Gareth’s self-loathing threatens to tip out of control, LC! co-vocalist Aleks Campesinos! breezes in with a line to defuse things, cooing, “He’s gonna get drunk and call you at four in the morning” like a reproachful angel sat on his shoulder. There are moments of comfort, too: stolen kisses on the dazed hoedown ‘Heart Swells/Pacific Daylight Time’; the sweet, balmy violin pop of ‘You’ll Need Those Fingers For Crossing’. But mostly, these songs are barbed and bitter because that’s the way love can be. And ‘We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’ is like Cupid gave it up and turned the bow and arrow on himself.